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This is How Long it Takes To Become a Helicopter Pilot


The decision to learn to fly a helicopter is one that takes a long time to think about. Part of that thought process is how long it is going to take to complete your training. Every individual is different and there are some factors that will determine how long it will take you.

On average, a helicopter private pilot certificate takes 2 – 4 months full-time training. A commercial helicopter pilot certificate can then take another 2 – 6 months. For most students, completing a full-flight training program of PPL, CPL, CFI & CFII takes 8 – 12 months.

The first question is part-time, full time or a mixture of both? For me personally, I completed my Private Pilot Certificate part-time while I worked, then I went into full-time training for my commercial and onwards.

The aim of this article is to break down the time it takes ON AVERAGE to get each type of helicopter pilot certificate. This will allow you to see how the timescales would best fit your situation.

How Long To Get a Helicopter Private Pilot Certificate?

The first certificate you will need to obtain to be able to go off on your own and fly without an instructor in a heicopter is the Private Pilot Certificate.

The Robinson R22 is a Great Helicopter for Training & Ownership

This will allow you to rent or own a helicopter providing you pay at least 51% or an equal share of the hourly costs and you are not compensated for doing so, ie: You cannot make money from flying, this requires a Commercial Pilot Certificate!

The FAA requirements to become a RW (Helicopter) Private Pilot are:
14 CFR Part61 Subpart E §61.109(c)

Minimum Age:17
Any Previous License Required:Student Pilot, Sport Pilot or Recreational Pilot
Total Flight Hours Required:40
Dual Hours Required:20
Solo Hours Required:10

These are the bare minimum hourly requirements set by the FAA. I can tell you that I have NEVER seen a student complete their training to a satisfactory proficiency to pass their examinations in these times.

Most students will take between 50 – 80 flying hours to fully complete their flight training syllabus. How often you fly will dictate the duration. As I mentioned earlier, I did my PPL (Private Pilot License/Certificate) part-time and it took me 2.5 years and 67 hours.

The more often you can fly, the sooner you will gain your certificate.
Here is an example, but tailor it to suit your schedule:

Flying Saturday & Sunday Only:

1.5 Hour Flight Every Morning & 1.5 Hour Flight Every Afternoon
= 3 Hours Per Day x 2 Days Per Week
= 6 Hours Per Week


Average Totals:
50 Hours ÷ 6 Hours = 8.5 Weeks To Complete
80 Hours ÷ 6 Hours = 13.5 Weeks To Complete


Flying Full Time

If you were to enroll in a full-time flight training program with enough aircraft and instructors to fly when you wish, these would be some typical scenarios:

Flying Monday – Friday Only:

1.5 Hour Flight Every Morning & 1.5 Hour Flight Every Afternoon
= 3 Hours Per Day x 5 Days Per Week
= 15 Hours Per Week


Average Totals:
50 Hours ÷ 15 Hours = 3.5 Weeks To Complete
80 Hours ÷ 15 Hours = 5.5 Weeks To Complete


Flying 7 Days Per Week:

1.5 Hour Flight Every Morning & 1.5 Hour Flight Every Afternoon
= 3 Hours Per Day x 7 Days Per Week
= 21 Hours Per Week


Average Totals:
50 Hours ÷ 21 Hours = 2.5 Weeks To Complete
80 Hours ÷ 15 Hours = 3.5 Weeks To Complete


No matter how often you fly you will also need to:

  • Schedule in Stage Checks (if applicable), 1, sometimes 2, with a Check Instructor
  • Complete your Ground Theory Study
  • Schedule & Sit your PPL Helicopter Written Theory Examination
  • Schedule your PPL Helicopter Flight Test – Known as a Checkride

Flying twice a day can sometimes become too much for many students as the mental fatigue from flying and studying can really become intense. Weather and aircraft & instructor availability also play a large role in the duration as it is always best to stick with the same instructor for continuity.

On Average, Most Full-Time Flight Students Will Complete Their Helicopter Private Pilot Certificate in Around 2 – 4 Months

How Long To Get a Helicopter Instrument Rating?

If you wish to be able to fly in poor weather in a helicopter then an Instrument Rating is the option for you. Maybe you are looking to purchase your own Twin-Engine, Single-Pilot IFR capable helicopter like a Leonardo AW109, for example.

My Time In Full Motion Simulators Are Great Fun!

The instrument rating not only opens up far more opportunities to fly, but it also makes you a safer pilot because you will have the skills and knowledge to be able to get yourself out of an ‘Inadvertent Entry Into IMC’ situation if it ever occurred.

The Instrument Rating can take a lot of work to understand how the IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) system operates and learning to fly by sole reference to the aircraft’s instruments takes a little practice. Some of the flight time may be completed in a simulator and depending on the sophistication of the simulator, that could be as much as 20 hours or as little as 10 hours.

The FAA requirements to obtain a RW (Helicopter) Instrument Rating are:
14 CFR §61.65(a,b,c & e)

Any Previous License Required:Private Pilot
Total Flight Hours Required:40
Dual Hours Required:15

Most students will gain their instrument rating in 40-45 hours of training.

Flying 7 Days Per Week:

1.5 Hour Flight Every Morning & 1.5 Hour Flight Every Afternoon
= 3 Hours Per Day x 7 Days Per Week
= 21 Hours Per Week


Average Totals:
40 Hours ÷ 21 Hours = 2 Weeks To Complete
45 Hours ÷ 21 Hours = 2.5 Weeks To Complete


Just like the Private Pilot Certificate you will also need to:

  • Schedule in Stage Checks (if applicable) 1, sometimes 2 with a Check Instructor
  • Complete your Instrument (IFR) Ground Theory Study
  • Schedule & Sit your IFR Helicopter Written Theory Examination
  • Schedule your IFR Helicopter Flight Test

The one thing you have to remember here is that the flight school’s amount of IFR-capable helicopters and simulators may be very limited and you may only be able to fly only once per day, or even less because of availability.

Getting your IFR rating in 2-3 weeks will take a real alignment of the stars and a tremendous amount of home study on your part. Changing your brains’ way of thinking from all that you know about aviation flying under VFR (Visual Flight Rules), to now flying IFR takes some time for the ‘Penny To Drop’.

On Average, Most Full-Time Flight Students Will Complete Their Helicopter Instrument Rating in Around 1-2 Months

How Long To Get a Helicopter Commercial Pilot Certificate?

If you wish to be a pilot for a career then a Commercial Pilot Certificate is what you will need to be compensated for your time, skill, and work. The training involved to become a commercial helicopter pilot builds on the skills and experiences you learned during your Private Pilot Certificate and refine them.

Commercial Flying Operations is Fun & Challenging Flying

The FAA provides students with two paths they can follow to obtain their Commercial Pilot License – CPL, (License & Certificate are the same thing).

The first path is using the Part 61 regulations and this allows for unaccredited schools and freelance flight instructors to train you in a more flexible and relaxed program.
To be able to apply for the Part 61 Commercial Helicopter Checkride you will need to have 150 HOURS of flight time and covered the requirements set out in 14 CFR Part 61 Subpart F.

The second path is using the Part 141 regulations and this allows for accredited schools and their flight instructors to train you in a rigid, approved training program. The part 141 program allows for lower hours to be flown because the school’s program is accredited by the FAA.
To be able to apply for the Part 141 Commercial Helicopter Checkride you will need to have 115 HOURS of flight time and covered the requirements set out in 14 CFR Part 141 Appendix D.

Only certain flight schools are accredited for the Part 141 program so you will have to research the schools where you wish to fly if you want to take that route. Outside of that, any instructor can teach you under Part 61. This is especially helpful if you have your own helicopter and wish them to train you on it.

Those accredited schools can also teach under Part 61 so may swap back and forth between 61 & 141 for which path best suits the individual student.

So lets look at how you get to 150 hours and 115 hours:

Part 61 – 150 Hours

14 CFR Part 61 Subpart F requires you to have the following before applying for the CPL Checkride:

Minimum Age:18
Any Previous License Required:Private Pilot
Total Flight Hours Required:150
Dual Hours Required:20
Solo Hours Required:10

You will need to take your hours you finished your PPL at and then see how many more hours you need to fly to ‘Build The Time’. This is a typical path for students in a ‘Professional Pilot Program’ as it allows them to complete their Instrument Rating during their ‘Hour Building’.

For Example:
Completed PPL at 70 Hours = 150 – 70 = 80 hours left to fly before applying for the CPL Checkride. Within that 80 hours, you will need to complete all the requirements set out in Part 61 Subpart F.

Many students will use that 80 hours to include their Instrument Rating as all that time (40-45 hours) counts toward the 150. In effect, it’s like getting the Instrument rating for free as you have to fly those hours anyway. This was the route I personally took, and most students do too.

Most students are ready for their CPL Checkride at 150 hours, so lets look at the minimum and average timescales:

Flying 7 Days Per Week:

1.5 Hour Flight Every Morning & 1.5 Hour Flight Every Afternoon
= 3 Hours Per Day x 7 Days Per Week
= 21 Hours Per Week

Time to complete 80 hours = 4 weeks

I can tell you from experience that no one I have ever known has trained for an entire PPL & CPL 7 days a week. It is just too much! 5 days per week is a typical routine – providing the instructor and flight school is able to accomplish 2 flights per day.

Flying 5 Days Per Week:

1.5 Hour Flight Every Morning & 1.5 Hour Flight Every Afternoon
= 3 Hours Per Day x 5 Days Per Week
= 15 Hours Per Week

Time to complete 80 hours = 5.5 weeks

Even flying 2x per day, 5 days a week while studying can be tough! Many students will do 1 flight and 1 ground school lesson each day with their instructor, then go home to absorb the flight lesson and continue studying their theory material.

On Average, Most Full-Time Flight Students Will Complete Their Part 61 Helicopter Commercial Certificate in Around 3-4 Months

Part 141 – 115 Hours

14 CFR Part141 Appendix D requires you to have the following before applying for the CPL Checkride:

Minimum Age:18
Any Previous License Required:Private Pilot
Total Flight Hours Required:115
Dual Hours Required:30
Solo Hours Required:10
Ground Hours Required:30

Again, we will base this timescale on you completing your PPL in 70 hours, but notice how this route has a mandatory 30 hours of ground school applied to it. Depending on the school this could be done as classroom-based training which you would have to work into your flight training schedule.

For Example:
Completed PPL at 70 Hours = 115-70 = 45 hours left to fly before applying for the Checkride. Within that 45 hours, you will need to complete all the requirements set out in 14 CFR Part141 Appendix D.

As this is a set syllabus students will only train for their commercial certificate. They will not be able to complete their Instrument Rating like they could if they took the Part 61 path. The Instrument Rating will have to be completed after the Commercial Certificate has been gained.

Flying 5 Days Per Week:

1.5 Hour Flight Every Morning & 1.5 Hour Flight Every Afternoon
= 3 Hours Per Day x 5 Days Per Week
= 15 Hours Per Week

Time to complete 45 hours = 3 weeks

Again, remember you have to fit in 30 hours of mandatory Ground School into this timescale too and all the flight training, stage checks, the written test, and flight test! Getting all that done in 3 weeks never happens! Your brain would melt and the school scheduler would require a serious bottle of wine or Scotch from you!

On Average, Most Full-Time Flight Students Will Complete Their Part 141 Helicopter Commercial Certificate in Around 1-3 Months with NO Instrument Rating

Where Are We Up To Realistically?

So lets do a small recap of where you could be if you wanted to become a Helicopter Pilot:

Average time to get a Private Pilot Certificate training full-time:
2 – 4 Months

Average time to get a Part 61 Commercial Pilot Certificate training full-time:
3 – 4 Months

Average time to get a Part 61 Commercial Pilot Certificate WITH an Instrument Rating training full-time:
3 – 4 Months

Average time to get a Part 141 Commercial Pilot Certificate with NO Instrument Rating training full-time:
1 – 3 Months


To go from zero experiance to walking out of flight school ready for work with a Commercial Helicopter Pilot Certificate takes roughly:

PPL & CPL with No Instrument Rating = 3 – 7 Months

PPL & CPL with an Instrument Rating = 5 – 8 Months

Even at this rate, you will have to be a very disciplined studier, come to lessons prepared for every flight knowing what you are going to be doing, having the weather on your side, maintenance on your side, and still, it will be one of the hardest years of your life, but man, is it worth it.


Now I am not going to lie, it is going to be hard to find a job straight out of flight school. The hardest part of all your journey so far could be getting that first job! To help you increase your chances of gaining employment, becoming a flying instructor is one of the options the FAA allows you to do and most flight schools look to hire their own students.

Yes, it is crazy having someone who has just left flight school begin teaching people how to fly, but if done with the right attitude it can be done safely, efficiently, and can be some of the most memorable years of your life.

This was the route that I took and I loved it!

Students Can Become Great Friends!

When you wish to reach this far into your training, I have prepared for you a complete breakdown of the timeline, costs, and training routes in a dedicated article which I highly recommend you read next!

Become A Flying Instructor – How, Cost, Time & Salary

To Finish

Learning to fly is one of the best decisions you will ever make but it is not something that you can rush. You may think you are a great student, but your body may tell you otherwise! I completely hit a plateau during my Flight Instructor training and I was a wreck for two whole weeks. No idea what happened – I just never progressed one inch!

We are not invincible and rushing only leads to frustration. Take your time to absorb all the flight instruction, ground instruction and have fun while learning to fly!

Every student is different so use this article to give yourself a rough timeline of the training you wish to do and allow yourself plenty of extra time. You will get there eventually, so you might as well take your time and enjoy the journey!

I still miss my flight school days even 15 years later!

Further Reading

To ensure you get the absolute best information to help you plan your flight training journey I highly recommend these other articles:

Oh, and you might find this interesting too:

Rick James

I am an aviation nut! I'm an ATP-rated helicopter pilot & former flight instructor with over 3500 hours spanning 3 countries and many different flying jobs. I love aviation and everything about it. I use these articles to pass on cool facts and information to you whether you are a pilot or just love aviation too! If you want to know more about me, just click on my picture!

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